I walk into a “September Scramble” party at 1:00 a.m. on a Saturday, late and completely sober.
It’s been a while since I was at a party like this; one you can hear from a block away, where you enter through an open front door wreathed with smokers, picking your way through a mountain range of shoes.
It’s probably the only real house party I’ve been to since I graduated from university, and definitely my first in the Yukon. I’ve been to a finger-full of potlucks, some barbeques, and all the music festivals, — but nothing quite like this.
As I weave through body-lined hallways and lineups for bathrooms, I begin to recognize a feeling I haven’t felt in a while: a sense of isolation, despite being surrounded by others.
There are a few reasons for this.
I’ve just come from another event that has me in a long flowing dress, while many of the people here, sweaty from a night of many bodies sharing space, are stripped down to the clothing essentials.
I don’t know as many people here as I thought I might, and I’ve missed the party’s main event, the dance competition.
I’m ridiculously sober in a room where people, imbibing or not, have spent all night together and are sharing that cumulative high.
In short, I’ve arrived post-climax.
Everyone seems to be dripping and dancing and lost in the party hive-jive, and I’m standing awkwardly on the outskirts.
But probably the main reason for my discomfort, as is often the case in life, is that I arrived with expectations.
A few weeks back I spoke with Vanessa Stewart, one of the founding members of the Whitehorse Party Co-op, about house party culture in Whitehorse.
“All the best parties I’ve been to have been in the Yukon,” she tells me, and the way she describes them, I believe her.
Most have themes; often costumes are involved. She had just finished helping to put on a three-house party crawl, a different theme at each abode.
And there’s a real sense of safety at these parties.
“It’s always an inclusive atmosphere. You don’t feel judged, you can relax.”
“Someone always knows someone,” she says, citing the sense of community that is felt both inside and outside the parties.
“Often we go around ahead of time and speak to neighbours, give a gift of appreciation for their tolerance.”
Even the cops don’t seem to mind when things get too loud.
“They just ask you to go inside and keep quiet. People in the Yukon seem to have perspective.”
But this lenience isn’t without reason; the most out-of-hand thing Stewart can recall happening at a party is someone drawing male genitalia on a coffee table.
I felt pretty ready to show up at this Whitehorse house party and be swept up by all my new best friends and all their good vibes.
After spending a while leaning against various walls and tables and watching a crowd of sweaty, happy, smiling bodies each move their own little way, but all together in a group, I realize I have a few options: I can keep standing here feeling like an alien, I can leave and go home, or I can join in.
I thread my way into the heart of the dance floor like I’m walking into the ocean. Waves of bodies crash against me as I adjust my rhythm to the music, slip into the hum of the hive.
The secret to partying, and many other things, is this: we get out what we put into things.